Pool Info: Automatic Covers
The automatic pool cover has come a long way in recent years. From hand crank models to fully electronic, key-operated systems, today's automatic covers are more reliable, durable, and safer than ever before.
A reinforced vinyl fabric runs between a track on either side of the pool's length. An aluminum roller on one end houses the cover and the tension rope when the cover is open. One end of the roller is attached to an electric motor, which is wired to a two direction switch (open or closed). Automatic covers look and perform somewhat better when installed on a rectangle pool at the time of construction. They can, however, be retrofitted to almost any shape pool. No longer do we have to run track down both sides of the pool. The less expensive models pull out by hand and are locked down around the edge with tiny plastic anchors. Rolling the cover up is accomplished by hand crank, or is motorized.
Automatic cover manufacturers boast of water, chemical, electrical and heat savings. Even the Department of Energy has a home page devoted to the economic benefits of pool covers. Auto covers have also been attributed to drowning prevention (although the solid cover must have rain water pumped off to be considered safe). The auto cover will keep your pool free from leaves and wind blown debris, however, you'll have to clean off the cover before opening it. This is usually easier than cleaning the pool. Below are some troubleshooting tips from our help file.
We recommend cleaning the cover by panel segments. Standing at the reel end, use a blower or a garden hose and a pool brush on a telescopic pole to push debris towards the opposite end. Roll the cover up one panel at a time, cleaning in this manner. When you get to the last panel, pump off the water and scoop out the leaves.
If the cover is inundated with leaves and/or water, use a leaf rake on the telescopic pole, scooping out as many leaves as possible before rolling the cover back. Similarly, use a cover pump to remove most of the water before rolling back the cover. It may be good medicine to treat the cover annually with a vinyl conditioner, like Armor All.
Broken shear pin?
If you attempt to roll back the cover with too much leaf or water weight on top, or if the cover is hanging up at some spot from maladjustment, you may hear a loud pop, which is likely the shear pin breaking. Most models have shear pins built in to prevent more costly damage to the motor and ropes. Your manufacturer should provide you with replacement shear pins and instructions on knocking out the old one and putting in a new pin. If you cannot find the location of the tension that is breaking the pin, call for service.
No power to cover motor?
If you turn the switch or key and get no response, check the breaker and make sure it is on. Check that GFCI outlets on the same circuit have not tripped. Check the motor to see if there is a reset button on the end. Make sure they key is making contact inside the key box. You can check the back of the motor to see if any power is reaching the motor. If this does you no good, or becomes a reoccurring problem, call for service.
Motor turns, but cover doesn't move?
This situation could mean that the shear pin has broken. It could mean that the motor is out of alignment and the cams are not engaging each other. It could also mean that your rope or spring has broken. Most cover owners become familiar with replacing shear pins, which are meant to break when stress on the cover reaches high enough levels. Other wise, call for service.
Cover not rolling back straight?
If one side of your cover is coming back before the other side, you will need to have adjustments made. Some manufacturers make this a simple wing nut turning affair, while others are a much more complicated exercise of setting cams. Look inside the box for instructions, you may be able to fix it in a few seconds. If not, call for service.
Owners of covers that are retrofitted (that is, added after the pool is built) with tracks that run on top of the deck may have problems with the vinyl sticking to the concrete when the cover is closed. Placing a leaf blower or a shop vacuum (exhaust side) under the leading edge (opposite end of the roller) will inflate the cover somewhat, breaking the moist seal of concrete to vinyl. The cover can then be opened with less risk of broken shear pins.
Do not roll open the cover too far back. If the sliders (plastic piece where the rope begins) come out of the end of the track near the cover box, it's sometimes a real pain in the you-know-what to push the slider back into the track.
Moisture in and around the motor is responsible for many problems with the cover. Hydraulic systems, although more expensive, have far fewer problems because there is no electric motor in an underground box. Ensure that the cover box is dry and that it drains properly. Likewise, it is important that cover boxes be cleaned annually to keep leaves and debris from clogging up the drains.
Automatic cover repair:
Standard technical service for diagnosis and repair labor is about $80/ hour. Rate is prorated after first hour. Parts additional.
Automatic cover installation:
The price for installing an automatic cover over the deck depends on it's size and location, and the level of automatic-ness you desire. Advances in design now allow for retrofitting these covers on almost any size and shape pool. Installation prices range from $3,000 - $8,000.